Turkey’s prime minister suspects Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) jihadists carried out the deadly bombings at peace rally in the Turkish capital of Ankara over the weekend that killed nearly 100 people and injured another 250.
Although no specific group has claimed responsibility, all eyes of the Turkish government’s investigation are on ISIS, revealed Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in an interview with private Turkish television station NTV on Monday.
“We investigate Daesh [ISIS] as our No. 1 priority. There (has) been good progress toward identifying a name,” said the PM, refusing to name a specific group while the investigation was ongoing. “That name points to an organization.”
Daesh is the acronym for ISIS’ original name in Arabic.
“We are close to a name, which points to an organization,” said the PM, Turkey’s semi-state-run Anadolu news agency reports.
“For us, these three organizations are seen as a potential focus for the crime and right from the start we gave priority to Daesh [ISIS] when looking at the method and general trend,” said Davutoglu, referring to ISIS, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), and leftist group the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C).
The Turkish PM declared that the attack would not turn Turkey into Syria, noting that Turkey is no stranger to dealing with suicide bombers.
ISIS has been linked to July’s bombing in Suruc that killed 33 pro-Kurdish activists.
“We ascertained how these two suicide bombers arrived at the square and how they carried the bomb,” declared Davutoglu.
Yeni Safak, a newspaper close to the government, reported that authorities had collected DNA samples from relatives linked to 20 Turks suspected of being members of ISIS in an effort to identify potential culprits behind the attacks.
The entire country of Turkey and its citizens were targeted by the terrorist attack, not just the peace rally participants, argued Davutoglu, echoing comments that Tugrul Turkes, Turkey’s deputy prime minister, made in an exclusive interview with state media agency Anadolu on Monday.
“This is an attack on the whole of Turkey. This is an attack directed at our democracy and at our people as a whole,” Davutoglu told NTV.
“This was a peace rally, there were representatives of different civil society organizations, […] were they the [only] target?” Turkes asked, answering firmly: “No.”
Davutoglu suggested that the attack was aimed at undermining Turkey’s elections expected to take place within the next month.
“There is also an attempt to cast shadow on the elections. One should not use this for small political calculations. Statements should not be made referring to the elections at this time,” declared the Turkish leader.
Davutoglu noted that he had contemplated suggesting to all the leaders of the country’s political parties to restrain themselves from hosting any rallies to avoid “provocation.”
Turkey has urged three days of mourning over the bloody attacks.
Nevertheless, CNN reports that there were confrontations between protesters and police near the scene of the deadly incidents.
“On Sunday, people once again massed in Ankara’s streets, this time expressing solidarity with the victims,” notes CNN. “One group, some of whom were carrying red flowers to commemorate the dead, tried to reach the scene of the blasts. But police officers blocked the group, whose members included opposition lawmakers. Scuffles broke out, and police fired tear gas into the air.”
The huge blast shook high-rise office buildings. Cadavers, protest banners, and flags were reportedly scattered all over.
“Bombings have struck rallies involving Kurdish groups in Turkey three times this year,” notes CNN.
The attack on Saturday did not halt Turkey’s crackdown against the PKK over the weekend.
PKK members have been fighting a separatist battle against the Turkish government for more than 30 years.
More than 2,000 PKK fighters and 150 Turkish security troops have been killed in the renewed hostilities, notes Anadolu.
Both the PKK and the DHKP-C are listed as foreign terrorist organizations by the United States, Turkey’s NATO ally.